Popularly referred as the Heart of Incredible India, Madhya Pradesh is the second largest state in the country. The state is home to a plethora of places that are absolutely worth visiting. In terms of natural and cultural heritage, Madhya Pradesh is a truly gifted state. Whenever you visit the incredible state, expect something in store for you. The best time to visit Madhya Pradesh is from October to June. Following are ten things that make Madhya Pradesh an ideal travel destination:

1. Bhimbetka Rock Shelters -

The Rock Shelters of Bhimbetka are my most favorite place of interest in Madhya Pradesh. It is one of the three UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the state, and is a must visit for everyone visiting Madhya Pradesh. Nestled in the Raisen district of Madhya Pradesh, the Rock Shelters exhibit the traces of the earliest human being in the Indian subcontinent. This is the place which marked the beginning of the Stone Age in South Asia. One can find carvings on the rocks dating back to nearly 30,000 years. Even evidence of dance during the early age has been found inside the caves.

2. Visit a bevy of religious sites -

A number of religious sites co-exist in Madhya Pradesh. Different types of cultures, religions, and ideologies have seamlessly blended into the society and created a peaceful community for the people to live in. Following are two of the most popular religious destinations in Madhya Pradesh:

a.) In the city of Bhopal, Taj-ul-Masajid (not Masjid), the largest mosque in India (Jama Masjid in New Delhi is the biggest one), attracts visitors from different parts of the world. Literally meaning 'Crown amongst Mosques', the mosque displays the exquisite Mughal style of architecture. Another well-known mosque in Bhopal is Moti Masjid.

b.) Ujjain, a city through which the Tropic of Cancer passes, is home to the renowned religious site called Shri Mahakaleshwar Temple. Kal Bhairav Temple, Harsiddhi Temple, Sun Temple, and Mangalnath Temple are some of the other popular religious sites in Ujjain.

What Makes Madhya Pradesh an Ideal Travel Destination
Is it the stairway of a temple or a mosque
Is it the stairway of a temple or a mosque

3. Khajuraho Group of Monuments -

Located in the Northern part of Madhya Pradesh, Khajuraho Group of Monuments comprises of temples belonging to two religions - Hinduism and Jainism. The temples were built during the period of 950 to 1050 AD. When completed, there were 85 temples. However, only 25 of them have survived so far. Displaying Nagara style of architecture, the Group of Monuments are listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. It is said that the magnificently and delicately carved out sculptures are amongst the best masterpieces in South Asia. Visit this place during the month of February, when the entertaining Khajuraho Dance Festival takes place. It will be a surreal experience.

What Makes Madhya Pradesh an Ideal Travel Destination
One of the temples of the Khajuraho Group of Monuments
One of the temples of the Khajuraho Group of Monuments

4. Into the wild -

For wildlife lovers, there is no better state in India to visit than Madhya Pradesh. To begin with, there are as a many as 25 wildlife sanctuaries, nine national parks, and six tiger reserves in the state. Some of the best national parks in India can be found in this majestic state. From the mighty Royal Bengal Tiger to the agile leopards, Madhya Pradesh is home to several wild species. It is believed that Kanha National Park, located in the southeast part of the state, was the inspiration behind Rudyard Kipling's 'The Jungle Book'. The national park is termed as one of the cleanest and most well maintained national parks in the continent. Other national parks in the state include Bandhavgarh National Park, Panna National Park, Pench National Park, Madhav Shivpuri National Park, and Satpura National Park. Expect to see Royal Bengal Tigers, Leopards, Wild Boars, Crocodiles, Bears et cetera.

What Makes Madhya Pradesh an Ideal Travel Destination
A Royal Bengal Tiger resting at Kanha National Park
A Royal Bengal Tiger resting at Kanha National Park

5. Dhuandhar Falls -

In the Jabalpur district of Madhya Pradesh, the cascading water of Narmada River falling from a height of almost 100 feet makes for a fascinating sight. It is one of the gorgeous waterfalls in this part of the world. Making its way through the Marble Rocks, renowned all over the world for its enchanting beauty, the river plunges down at a great speed, especially during the monsoon season. Get inside a cable car for a ride to get a bird's eye view of the magical plunge waterfall or hire a boat to drift along the gorge at the base of the waterfall. Either choice you make, the experience would be surreal.

What Makes Madhya Pradesh an Ideal Travel Destination
The gorgeous Dhuandhar Falls dwindling through the marble rocks near Jabalpur
The gorgeous Dhuandhar Falls dwindling through the marble rocks near Jabalpur

6. Treat your taste buds in Indore -

If you are a food lover or a connoisseur, Indore is one of the better places in the country for you to visit if you want to treat your taste buds. Being in the center of the country, Indore has pretty much every Indian cuisine available at the drop of a hat. From North Indian cuisine to South Indian cuisine, fruit juice to fruit ice cream, you will not have to struggle to find scrumptious food ... available at every locality within the city. On your next visit to the city, make sure to try those lip smacking street food. Having Poha when in Madhya Pradesh is a must.

What Makes Madhya Pradesh an Ideal Travel Destination
Poha is one of the most popular Indian dishes in Indore
Poha is one of the most popular Indian dishes in Indore

7. The Great Stupa -

Located at Sanchi, near Bhopal, The Great Stupa is one of the oldest structures in India that is made of stone. Built during the reign of Emperor Ashoka in the 3rd century BC, The Great Stupa is another monument that has been listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. Inside the main Stupa - sandwiched right in the middle - there are Gautam Buddha's relics. The layout of the entire site was laid out impeccably. Each and every archway has a unique story of Gautam Buddha's life. Go inside the main Stupa, and try meditation. Or even if you can't meditate, just visit this place and stay there for a while. I assure you that you shall return from the visit in a much more peaceful state of mind.

What Makes Madhya Pradesh an Ideal Travel Destination
The Great Stupa of Sanchi a holy site for Buddhists houses the relics of Gautam Buddha
The Great Stupa of Sanchi a holy site for Buddhists houses the relics of Gautam Buddha

8. Hammam of Nawabs -

A hammam is a Turkish style bath that was an integral part of the Islamic community for bathing (Islamic style spa?). Situated in the capital city of Madhya Pradesh is the only surviving hammam in the country. The hammam is one of the several hidden treasures in Bhopal, and is definitely worthy of a visit. This off-beat point of interest is more than 300 years old, but it continues to look magnificent. Visit this hammam and get yourself an oil massage or a steam bath.

What Makes Madhya Pradesh an Ideal Travel Destination
This picture gives an idea of what a Hammam looks like from inside
This picture gives an idea of what a Hammam looks like from inside

9. Perambulate Around the Ancient City of Mandavgad -

Commonly referred as Mandu, Mandavgad is an old, uninhabited city located in the district of Dhar in the western part of Madhya Pradesh. There are a number of points of interests in the age-old city. Palaces such as Roopmati's Pavilion, Hathi Paga Mahal, Baz Bahadur's Palace, Hindola Mahal, and Jahaz Mahal, are some of the famous places to visit in the city. There are 12 gates (Darwazas) erected in the city which acts as the point of entrance or exit. Rent a bicycle, and go around exploring the centuries old monuments in the old city.

What Makes Madhya Pradesh an Ideal Travel Destination
Jama Masjid one of the popular points of interest in Mandu
Jama Masjid one of the popular points of interest in Mandu

10. Dwell yourself in Adrenaline Pumping Activities -

As mentioned earlier, Madhya Pradesh is a naturally gifted state. There are a bunch of adrenaline pumping activities one can undertake. Treat youself with a Hot Air Balloon ride in Bhopal, try Flying Fox over Kerwa Lake, challenge yourself in River Rafting in Orchha, experience Rock Climbing in the hills of Pachmarhi, or just relax you mind and soul by participating in a Nature Walk in Amarkantakk. In Madhya Pradesh, adventure awaits.

What Makes Madhya Pradesh an Ideal Travel Destination
Go for a short trek in the hills around the ancient city of Mandu
Go for a short trek in the hills around the ancient city of Mandu

pic credits- Arian Zwegger, nagarjun kandukuru, pedro, ashish gautam, rovingl, travelling slacker, hammam, jean pierre dalbera, varun shiv kapur